Saturday, January 26, 2013

Boys and Girls

I have no idea what made me think of this, but as I was doing laundry this morning I thought of my first "real" boyfriend.  I write "real" because I guess he wasn't technically my "first" boyfriend.  My "technically first" boyfriend was a guy in second grade who asked me on the playground to be his girlfriend and then never talked to me again. I remember that guy had red hair and got in trouble for eating glue when we were in first grade.  I guess some things just aren't meant to be.

Anyway, my first "real" boyfriend was a guy I met at my first real (no quotes necessary) job when I was fifteen.  He was a grade younger than me and had beautiful blue eyes and hair like the kid from Terminator 2.  Other than seeing each other at work while we were working, we went on a total of three dates.  Only these weren't actual dates, they were things we planned to do with our friends and show up at the same place at the same time.  Did I mention I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend?

He broke up with me after the work Christmas party because I wouldn't let him kiss me.  That worked out fine because by this time I had felt guilty enough about hiding the "relationship" from my parents that I'd told them he was my boyfriend and they'd insisted I tell him we could only be friends.

After that, my parents took the approach that if I wanted to go out with a boy for an activity (not a date, I wasn't allowed to call them dates), said boy had to call my dad and ask permission.  I think I've written about this before, so I'll try to summarize.  I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend and I wasn't allowed to plan activities with boys who wouldn't ask my dad for permission.  It was also very rare that I was allowed to go anywhere in a car with a boy unless other people were present in the car as well.  In fact, I think it only happened twice before I was eighteen, both times to a homecoming dance with a friend, with strict instructions that I was to be returned home immediately after.

There were also several guys who I was allowed to go on an activity with and who jumped through all the hoops of calling my dad and finding other people to go too and then my parents decided they were too old or too fill-in-the-blank and there would be no future activities with those guys.  And my dad would tell them that the next time they called to ask if I could go out.  For me this was all was somewhat humiliating and socially limiting, but I can (mostly) understand why they did it.

All of this led me to thinking about the boys and.... ugh... girls. Or maybe it was thinking of the girl thing which got me started thinking about the old boyfriend thing. Not sure. Anyway, right now, girls are just other kids at the boys' school, other kids who sometimes come over to play.  I don't want to mess that up by breaching the subject too soon, so we haven't really talked about girls other than in the general, respecting-other-people way.  I keep telling myself I have time, but I know it's going to go so fast and we will be talking about girlfriends before I know it.

I'm not going to tell them they can't have a girlfriend.  I'm not going to try to control every decision they make.  But I kind of feel like I don't have a context for how this all works outside of the way I was raised.  And I kind of feel at a disadvantage because I've never been a boy.

As the boys get older, I worry about them feeling pressured to do things they shouldn't or behave in ways other than the ways they've been taught to behave.  I worry about them liking the wrong girls.  I worry about them not talking to me about what is going on in their lives.  I worry about them taking relationships too seriously or not seriously enough.  I worry about them getting their hearts broken and I worry about them breaking someone else's heart.  I just worry.  And I kind of feel that maybe the way the relationships of my youth were handled (for me) didn't fully prepare me for helping them navigate theirs.


Or maybe it did.  Or maybe it doesn't really matter. We're all doing the best we can. My parents were doing what they thought was the best thing for me just like I have to do what I think is best for my kids. It won't be perfect and I'm sure time will reveal mistakes I've made with them and ways in which I've failed them. But I'm doing my best. I hope and pray the way I'm raising them is teaching them to respect and value both others and themselves enough that they can make the right choices at the right times.

And I hope to raise them each to be the kind of guy who wouldn't dump a girl after three kind-of dates because she isn't ready to kiss him.

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